Amidst significant gains in primary level participation rates, learning gaps remain among primary and secondary level students. Increased government spending in education, as well as the implementation of the K-12 program are important education sector reforms that sets the stage for improved access and better education outcomes for the Filipino youth. However, while these reforms are significant, much is still needed to be done in improving learning outcomes for primary and secondary learners in the Philippines. On 24 May 2016, the Department of Education (DepEd), Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS), and Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA) Philippines hosted a Policy Forum entitled: Evidence in the Education Sector. The forum was held at the PIDS Conference Room in Centris, Quezon City. The forum aimed to disseminate, among key decision makers, how impact evaluation and evidence can be useful in achieving improved learning outcomes.
Around 60 participants attended the forum from various agencies such as the DepEd, PIDS, the National Economics and Development Authority (NEDA), the Asian Development Bank (ADB), Teach for the Philippines, Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP), Congressional Policy and Budget Research Department (CPBRD), Navotas National High School, Synergeia Foundation, National University of Singapore (NUS), Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA), International Initiative for Impact Evaluation (3ie), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Department of Budget and Management (DBM), Masaganang Sakahan, Senate Economic Planning Office (SEPO), Office of Sen. Bam Aquino, The Asia Foundation, University of the Philippines College of Education, and IPA. In his keynote speech, DepEd Asec. Elvin Ivan Uy stressed that education should enable each person to maximize their potential. He highlighted the need to actively promote the use of evidence within DepEd and that DepEd itself should be an active producer of evidence. Another keynote speech provided by NEDA DDG Rosemarie Edillon mentioned the pivotal role of evidence in policymaking at the national level. DDG Edillon maintained that each evaluation should address present and future needs in the sector. Roundtable discussions as well as panel presentations on topics such as stakeholders in evaluation, enabling learning, and secondary and tech-voc education comprised the Policy Forum. Dr. Gilberto Llanto, in identifying champions in impact evaluations, with panel members Dr. Vicente Paqueo, PIDS Visiting Research Fellow, and Mr. Roger Masapol, Director of DepEd Planning Service, highlighted important issues such as the usefulness of impact evaluations in preserving effective programs, the need for greater appreciation of evaluations among all levels in government, and the value of having data publicly available. IPA Philippines Country Director Nassreena Sampaco-Baddiri moderated the panel discussion on enabling learning where Dr. Aniceto Orbeta, Jr., PIDS Senior Research Fellow, and Asec. Uy from DepEd presented on critical issues in achieving improved education quality. Discussions were centered on the importance of context of the education system, the possibility of having complementary programs for better outcomes, the role of programs (and evaluation of these programs) in learning, and the need to consider non-cognitive competencies. A panel discussion on techvoc education was moderated by DDG Rolando Tungpalan of NEDA which included presentations from Dr. Emily Beam, NUS,and Dr. Catherine Galapon from TESDA . Key topics include the role of education in building skills, employment, and better quality of life as well as the value of testing different interventions in order to understand what works and what doesn’t work. The use of evidence generated by rigorous evaluations, will definitely play a significant role in moving the country forward, especially in vital sectors such as education. Dr. Llanto’s closing statement, “The unexamined policy intervention is not worth implementing” captures the importance of evaluations in a nutshell.